Tuesday, August 7, 2018

You May Not Need Every Tool

Do you have a lot of tools?

I don't. I had a nice collection inherited from my dad (I call them a collection because I collected them but when they were his he actually USED them) until they were destroyed in a fire.

Now, an apartment dweller, I have few tools. I still don't use all of them -- but I know how.

When we are solving problems we have many tools. The temptation is to use them all. It's oddly satisfying to bring out tool after tool. Satisfying, but sometimes inefficient. Simplicity - elegant simplicity is often best.

Use the tools that work, and leave the rest for another time.

It isn't always necessary to overwhelm a problem in order to solve it.

Sometimes the solution is right there in from of you and in need of only one tool. Dialogue. Talk about it and see what happens. You might just solve that problem faster than you expected.

-- doug smith

Monday, August 6, 2018

When NOT to Make Peace

I'm a peaceful guy. Given a choice, any choice at all, I will avoid conflict by seeking to create dialogue. If that doesn't work, or the situation is too intense I may just leave. Leaving is good. Leaving is peaceful. Leaving feels safe.

But leaving is not always the best choice. It's not enough to make peach with a problem when it's our duty to solve it. Making peace with that kind of problem makes us culpable for the problem.

Centered problem solvers solve problems even when it would be easier to run away.

Don't run away from problems that need to be solved. Don't make peace with a problem causing pain.

-- doug smith

Sunday, August 5, 2018

High Performance Survival

High performance leaders solve problems. They solve their problems and they work with their team members to solve collective team problems (because any team problem becomes a collective problem - impossible to isolate.)

Using the right balance of clarity, courage, creativity, and compassion high performance leaders facilitate the kind of dialogue that challenges, encourages, cooperates, and collaborates. They talk about it. Their team talks about it. They get it done.

It can be rough going solving problems. Personalities can get excited. High performance leaders find ways to remain centered. How? Of course it depends. Here are some ways to remain centered when you're solving problems:

  • Breathe
  • Pause
  • Maintain respect
  • Think creatively
  • Consider many, many possibilities
  • Suspend your inner judge and stay curious
  • Trust that others have ideas as great as yours
There's more to it of course. Solving problems is a dynamic, difficult adventure. But by taking the time to solve problems your team will become more cohesive and your results more productive.

High performance leadership thru clarity, courage, creativity, and compassion

Survival depends on ever-increasing problem skills.

And when you DO constantly learn and grow your problem solving skills, teams can move from surviving to thriving.

Isn't that what you want?

-- doug smith 

Monday, July 30, 2018

Colin Mochrie talks improv and leadership

It's Not Pretend

Problems are real. We might avoid them, but they are real. We might ignore them, but they can only be ignored until the problem is big enough to cause reactions. Problems are not pretend so our reactions must be real.

We need to pay attention. We need to act.

It doesn't do any good to pretend to know the solution if the solution doesn't work.

-- doug smith

Is Anger A Problem Solving Tool?

Problems can make me angry. It's tempting to express that anger. Sometimes it's even necessary to express that anger, in a productive and safe way. But, it's too much to expect that anger can solve the problem.

Anger calls attention to its cause. When it's a problem, we notice our anger. We get motivated to react.

Anger might be simply doing its best to identify a problem. Just don't use anger attempting to solve it.
-- doug smith

Different Problems, Different Solutions

Sometimes a solution works so well that we're tempted to use it for everything. Different problems need different solutions.
-- doug smith


Personal problems might involve fewer people but can feel crushingly serious.
-- doug smith

Monday, June 18, 2018

Energizing Goals

Centered problem solvers set clear and energizing goals.

How many ways can you think of to solve your problem? What if you framed your problem as a goal -- how many ways could you think of to achieve your goal?

Limitless? That's what I was thinking...

-- doug smith

Monday, April 2, 2018

Test Your Assumptions

When was the last time one of your assumptions was wrong?

It's so easy to jump to conclusions. We fill-in-the-blanks so many times in so many ways because it's just part of being human. But, when we assume that things are not going in our favor, when maybe there is no reason to, we do ourselves no service.

This is a picture of a recent training room for one of my workshops. It was day two of the two-day workshop and since the hotel staff had in the past forgotten to unlock the door to my room. I arrived, and sure enough the door was locked. Rather than get upset (something I might have experienced in the past) I calmly contacted the hotel staff and politely, yet assertively, asked to have my door unlocked.

"I can do that, sir," said a polite maintenance gentleman, "but you could also just walk in thru that second, open door..."

"Oh. Gee. Thanks!"

That was just a little embarrassing. Just about fifteen feet from the locked door was an open door. My assumption ("I'm locked out!") was completely incorrect.

I know better. You know better. And yet, every once in a while it is so easy to jump to a conclusion that I do. And often, when you jump to a conclusion, you've fallen into a trap.

Test your assumptions. The answer you're looking for might be right there all along.


  1. The next time you are working on a problem, take a moment to list all of your assumptions about that problem.
  2. Share your list of assumptions with someone who is impartial about your problem. Get their responses and ask open-ended questions.
  3. Ask yourself, "What if my assumptions is false? What else could be going on?"
  4. Let go of any assumptions that are not serving you well.

-- doug smith

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Center Yourself First

Those problems! Does it ever seem that they can take on lives of their own? They can seem so out of whack, so out of harmony, that we wonder what it will take to even start to get them under control. Breathless, we forge ahead bungling our initial efforts and creating a spinning circle of frustration.


Unless we first center ourselves. Unless we are already balanced, focused, breathing individuals. Ready for this challenge because we are simply ready. Confident. Quiet. Calm. Centered.

Center yourself first.

Solving problems without a centered self may lead to complications.

You're first on that list.

-- doug smith

Go Ahead

Have you ever tried to solve a problem but kept holding yourself back? I've done that too many times to count, and it doesn't count for anything. It doesn't work.

Feeling insecure will not make me more secure. Let it go. Open up more possibilities.

The magic, the answer, the solution is in the possibilities.

-- doug smith

Set a Positive Goal

The best problem solving achieves a positive goal.

-- doug smith